Some riders will only wear open-face helmets, some will only wear full-face, others wear different helmets in different conditions and some only wear flip-up or modular helmets.
So which is best and what are the advantages and disadvantages of the various types of helmet?
We don’t want to preach to you about what sort of helmet you should wear. But not wearing a helmet can mean disaster in court.
We have provided you with a list of advantages and disadvantages of each helmet type so you can decide what to wear.
Just make sure you do wear a helmet and that it is in good condition and properly approved for your location.
Open-face helmets: Advantages
Advantages of an open-face helmet are surprisingly many.
For a start, it is way cooler in both attitude and temperature. I was once told that if you don’t wear an open-face helmet you are not a real biker.
Certainly you can look much cooler in an open-face helmet as well as feel much cooler.
It also allows the rider to smoke, smile or poke their tongue at other motorists and scratch their face.
You can talk easier to fellow riders and pillions in nan open helmet and hear what they are saying more clearly.
It also allows you to hear what is going on around you such as the screeching of tyres which could be a warning. You can also hear horns and the sirens of emergency vehicles.
Open-face helmets are much lighter and therefore less fatiguing than heavy full-face helmets.
Because your face is visible, you can often fill up at service stations, sometimes even those that usually require you to remove your helmet.
But the biggest advantage is that you can see better and with a wider range of view. So there are no blind spots.
This is a primary safety advantage of open-face helmets which is of great use in heavy traffic.
Open-face helmets: disadvantages
However, the secondary safety protection of an open-face helmet in a crash is low.
The Icon Airframe full-face helmet includes crash statistics printed on the shell to show the likelihood of that part of your head hitting the tar in a crash.
The chin bar area hits the ground in 19.4% of crashes! So open-face helmets will not protect your face.
Another disadvantage is that you have to wear glasses to protect your eyes.
You usually need to wear a face mask to protect your face from sunburn, windburn, rain, cold, bugs, stones and other highway detritus.
These face masks can be uncomfortable and annoying and if you cop a face full of rain, they can even impede your breathing.
While they may be lighter and therefore less fatiguing, the noise and wind can have their own fatiguing effects on a long ride.
And, if you’ve got an ugly mug, it is on show for all to see!
Full-face helmets: Advantages
The obvious main advantage of a full-face helmet is the added protection it provides your chin and face.
Full-face helmets also offer more protection from noise, sun, wind, rain, cold, bugs and stones.
But there are many other advantages as well.
Sport and entertainment stars often cite the anonymity of a full-face helmet – plus a tinted visor – as a significant advantage.
Some of us older riders also like the fact that it disguises our age.
That’s probably why so many attractive young female motorists wave at me! For all they know, I could be Keanu Reeves.
There is also no need to wear glasses for protection if you have a full-face helmet with a visor and not even sunglasses if you have a tinted visor.
Because of their insulation from the environment, they are less fatiguing on long trips.
There is also a nice cocooned feeling about wearing a full-face helmet.
Full-face helmets: Disadvantages
Conversely, the immediate feeling of putting on a full-face helmet after wearing an open-face helmet is one of isolation and claustrophobia.
You feel stifled and less free!
In hot weather, they can also get very hot and limit the airflow to your face.
That can make them very tiring on long rides on hot days.
Most likely you will be asked to remove your helmet at service stations, especially if it has a tinted visor.
A full-face helmet reduces your ability to talk to your pillion or riding colleagues. They can’t hear you and you can’t hear them.
It also restricts your ability to hear important traffic sounds such as screeching tyres, horns and sirens.
Full-face helmets usually provide a limited field of vision with blind spots to your rear three-quarters. The Bell Bullitt is an exception.
It can also be a pain to open the visor and wedge your finger in to scratch an itch on your chin.
Modular helmets: Advantages
Advocates of flip-up or modular helmets say they combine the advantages of open and and full-face helmets.
They feel they are safer, yet allow more freedom, especially if it is a helmet that you can legally ride with the chin bar in the open position.
To find out if your modular helmet can be used when riding, check the ECE22.05 label inside. If it has J and P in the serial number, it can legally be used with the chin piece raised or lowered.
But usually the flip-up chin bar is only convenient when you are stopped.
It allows you to hold a conversation with people, take a photo and sometimes fill up with fuel.
Modular helmets: disadvantages
The main disadvantage of modular helmets is the extra weight of the hinge and locking mechanism.
This compromises the integrity of the shell, so they usually rate lower in crash protection than a lot of full-face helmets.
The two-piece shell also means there is a crack where the wind and noise can get in so they can be louder than a full-face helmet.
Their locking mechanism can sometimes jam shut or fail to lock.
Did I mention that some of them are very big and just look ridiculous?
Do you wear an open-face, full-face or modular helmet and why? Leave your comments below.